Econonmy Politics Transparency

Ramkalawan’s US Visit: An Opportunity to Get Seychelles Back on Track

Wavel Ramkalawan’s recent visit to the United States for President Biden’s US-Africa Leaders Summit last week left people with more questions than answers. Although ostensibly joining other leaders from across the African continent for a summit meant to focus on civil society, business, diaspora and youth leadership, one could not help but wonder whether or not the administration had other hopes for the visit.

Seychelles, as is the case with quite a few other African nations, has been falling victim to Russian influence. The ongoing war in Ukraine has seen the Russian Federation increasingly isolated globally and looking for allies across the world susceptible to their narrative. Seychelles, under the leadership of Ramkalawan, is a particularly ripe potential ally, considering the central role that Seychelles has played and continues to play in providing offshore accounts to circumvent tax or sanctions, laundering money and facilitating extensive illicit activities.

Ramkalawan has understood the potential niche role that his country can play providing a safe haven for the finances and interests of the world’s most corrupt individuals and pariah states. This is far from speculation, and was covered extensively in a report published by the reputable International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). It is doubtful if senior diplomats at the State Department did not take the opportunity to discuss their concerns with Ramkalawan in person, who with the right amount of pressure just might be swayed to abandon his policy of working with Russian money and actively allowing Russian influence in the Seychelles.

Indeed, such summits are often an excellent opportunity to be able to convey such concerns to developing world governments. Such was certainly the case with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who according to public reports received messages from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken regarding the potential for bloodshed in the DRC, and the need to have a positive impact through his country’s network of support for M23 rebels.

Another issue which Ramkalawan may have been dismayed to receive warnings about has been the pattern of democratic backsliding that has been evident in his nation over the course of the past year. This has included everything from exerting control over the press at the expense of freedom of expression, the passing of legislation aimed at empowering the military to act at the President’s will in times of peace as well as the locking up of political enemies. The US which has traditionally been concerned over instances of authoritarianism rearing its ugly head, is certainly concerned about this pattern of troubling domestic developments in the Seychelles.

If however, after receiving such warnings no concrete change is effected on the ground, it would be time to consider alternative options. While it is doubtful if this would include sanctions, certainly international aid conditionally is a tool which the US has in the past used in cases such as these. As the US is the most significant single contributor to organizations like the IMF and World Bank, it would not be outside the remit of the United States to demand comprehensive democratic reform in the Seychelles if international aid was to be continued. Such a scenario would see Ramkalawan and his government pushed into a corner and required to alter their course immediately to avoid financial bankruptcy and isolation.

With authoritarian regimes like Ramkalawan’s, it is difficult to know if such a course of action would be successful or alternatively, if it might just push him and his government further into the hands of Russia and other anti-democratic actors. However, one thing to certain: The United States must continue to be active along the lines it sees fit to ensure the Seychelles don’t move further into Russia’s sphere of influence and the fragile cornerstones of democracy are not uprooted by Ramkalawan.

Justice Politics Transparency

The Seychelles Independent Is In President Ramkalawan’s Crosshairs

Taking a page out of the playbook of Russia’s strongman, Ramkalawan has commenced his crackdown on independent media in Seychelles

The story which one would have anticipated to be making waves recently in Seychelles is the surprising banning of the Seychelles Independent News (SIN) from presidential press conferences by Wavel Ramkalawan. Claiming, quite strangely, that the country was “moving towards a more serious media”, the President took the decision to ban the publication from press conferences on the basis of the claim that they were publishing defamatory material about his administration.

The move was strongly criticised by the Association of Media Practitioners Seychelles (AMPS), who condemned the President’s “ostracising” of the Seychelles Independent and sought to engage with the Statehouse on the issue to no avail. Strangely, despite the above-mentioned reasons given for the paper’s banning from presidential press conferences, the issue had never been raised with AMPS, whose responsibilities including addressing such issues among their media house members. Similarly, AMPS denied having any knowledge of the impending ban, despite the fact that the President’s office claimed the contrary. This was compounded by further discrepancies between reasons the President gave inquiring journalists and the written explanation given by his Chief Press Secretary.

It is also unclear if this banning of the Seychelles Independent from presidential press conferences was a standalone move or potentially the first of further steps planned against the Independent, and perhaps other media outlets in Seychelles. According to a press release by the organization, “AMPS sees the actions of State House in ostracising SIN as being detrimental to the progress the country has clawed back in regards to freedom of the press and freedom of expression”.

This is not the first time President Ramkalawan has run into trouble with issues of freedom of the press. The President came under fire recently for quite a few issues related to media censorship. Earlier this year the CEO of the Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) Berard Dupres, expressed his concern with undue political pressure being exerted against his organization to cover issues from a perspective that is more favourable to the government.

The critique was levied in an interview with esteemed Seychellois radio presenter Patsy Canaya, in which he explained the way in which the President attempted to control the extent to which opposition activities of the United Seychelles party were covered in the media. He did this by threatening to leverage the state budget against the nation’s official broadcast authority if they did not fall in line with his demands.

And now it is the Seychelles Independent which the President has his eyes on. What perhaps is not clearly understood by the President and his strategic advisors is that journalists reporting in a country without media censorship need not be accountable to political authority. In fact one of the most basic elements of a democracy is the checks and balances afforded by the press which, along with NGO’s, have the uniquely important role of overseeing government activities and critiquing these when they diverge from what is expected of leadership authority.

Ramkalawan has most probably been taking his cues from Russian President Putin, a close associate of his, and actually one of the few friends the president still has left after his invasion of Ukraine. Putin earlier this year criminalized any form of criticism of his country’s armed forces in the media, making it a crime punishable with up to 15 years in prison. In an explanation that is strikingly similar to the one given by Ramkalawan, Putin, through Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, claimed the law was necessary as a result of disinformation campaigns being run against the government. Pressure against independent media in Russia is nothing new. In fact independent media these days is almost non-existent in Russia, with nearly all either having been either shuttered by the government or forced to close for one reason or another.

If only Ramkalawan could wield the same control over domestic media in Seychelles he surely would have already exerted full control over their operations a long time ago. The international community should be concerned. With a regime both acting with complete impunity domestically, and cosying up too one of the world’s worst autocratic regimes, it will certainly not be long before the West finds itself with a significant challenge on Africa’s Eastern flank.

Econonmy Politics Transparency

Tales of Corruption and Illusions of Impunity

The saga that is the trial of Mukesh and Laura Valabhji continued in court on December 3rd, when the couple returned to court for a continued hearing on the status of their property. The property in question, Morne Blanc, continues to be under the detention of the police, with a court ruling issued on November 9th extending the detention by 60 days.

Objections were filed by the couple’s legal representation Ms. Samantha Aglae, who has expressed the couple’s discontent with the continued detained status of the property. The explanation provided has been less than adequate, with the police and the Seychelles Anti-Corruption Commission (ACCS) investigators claiming that further searches still need to be conducted, even though the Seychelles Police has been in custody of the property since 18 November 2021. Of course, one would think that any professional police force, including European funded and trained ACCS investigators under the guidance of former UK police officer Patrick Humphrey, should have been able to complete all required searches in less than 54 weeks.

And in fact, the Seychelles Police have already admitted that no further searches are ongoing at the property. Detective Sergeant Davis Simeon of the Seychelles Police admitted as much in his affidavit to the court dated 28 June 2022, in which he swore that the search of the Morne Blanc property had finished & that the premises were no longer considered a crime-scene. Why, after 5 months & a sworn affidavit from the Police that their work was finished, is the ACCS now claiming that investigative work on the physical premises is still ongoing? What are they hiding?

More concerning than the flip-flop on legal rationale is the fact that the couple have been denied access to even the most basic things, such as collecting their own personal effects. This has included things as innocent as food for pets as well a range of vehicles that require servicing to ensure their safe operation, all of which needless to say having no relation to the trial and have not been confiscated, nor has the government sought their seizure. The reason such basic things have been denied remains unclear, but speculation has it that more likely than not the property has been completely pillaged by the government.

A court ruling actually determined that the ACCS must indeed facilitate access, something which the police have continued to push off. The couple’s attorney has expressed concern that the state of the property is rapidly deteriorating, despite a court mandated order that obligates the police to care for the property’s maintenance. Furthermore there are assets which are not under detention which the police have been similarly blocking access to.

The protection of personal property is one of the most basic rights in a democracy, developing or established. Without this there can be no rule of law. Beyond the question of what is happening with the trial of the 50 million in Seychelles, the violation of the fundamental human right of the protection of personal property should be of concern to international human rights organisations, which have been monitoring the rapidly deteriorating state of affairs in the country very closely.

It should similarly be of concern to Ambassador Vincent Degert, the EU diplomat tasked with covering Seychelles. Although it has been reported that Degert is quite close with President Ramkalawan as well as UK barrister Steven Powles KC, there are scenarios in which friendship must take a backseat. And one of those scenarios is cases where fundamental human rights are being violated.

Property detention cannot be extended endlessly, and if the government would like to continue blocking access to the property it must explain and prove in a court the reason why this continues to be necessary. It must also provide adequate explanation as to why it has prevented access to properties that are not under detention and why the most basic of personal effects cannot be removed from a house which while under detention, is not currently being actively searched. Unless of course, as appears to be the case, police, in collaboration with the government are simply making use of this stranglehold over the Valabhji couple’s finances to extort an admission of guilt.

Perhaps however, the government was not informed of the fact that such behaviour is in essence extortion, a criminal offense in most democracies. In the faux democracy that is the Seychelles though, the government thinks it can continue to operate with endless impunity. President Ramkalawan and his allies are in for a rude awakening, as decision makers in the EU continue to deliberate the future of their relationship with the island nation. Even Seychelles is not outside the wide reach of international justice.

Politics Transparency

Patrick Humphrey Must Be Held Accountable By The UK Government

Patrick Humphrey may not be a household name but in the Seychelles he is having a tremendous impact on one of the most important cases the country has ever seen. A United Kingdom citizen contracted to the Anti-Corruption Commission of the Seychelles (ACCS), he is a former police officer now working full-time in the island nation.

Contracted through Hamburg based consulting firm GFA, which itself has in the past been accused of severe instances of corruption, Humphrey worked alongside two colleagues, Kevin Carty and Ian McDonald, all experienced anti-corruption investigators. Their activities as well as the ACCS are funded by the European Union which has invested hundreds and thousands of Euros to support good governance and in order to combat the kind of corruption Humphrey and his colleagues are engaged in.

Of the three experts, Humphrey came in as the training coordinator. One of the first things he actually focused on in terms of training and exercises was teaching the ACCS how to properly conduct property and house searches specifically, according to a report from 2019 in the Nation. Interestingly it is exactly on this issue that he is being accused of gross misconduct and even facilitating illegal activities.

Specifically, the properties of two of the accused in the case of the USD 50 million, Mukesh and Laura Valabhji were reportedly recently searched, and there have been reports of the the properties being both looted and vandalized. It is unclear if it was the investigators themselves who stole property from the households, or if the team simply did not do enough to secure the premises. Either way, one would expect an experienced investigator the likes of Mr Humphrey to know how to mitigate such a situation and properly execute a search without putting the defendants personal property at risk.

The state of the properties in question were reportedly so bad as a result of the search that the ACCS’s May De Silva felt that she had to do everything in her power to ensure that a court mandated house visit by the defendants did not move forward. The excuse given was that the ACCS did not have sufficient wherewithal to be able to secure the visit. What exactly that means remains completely unclear as neither defendant has presented a flight risk, and there are exactly zero security concerns with allowing a court mandated house visit.

A similar situation took place with Fahreen Rajan as well as her ex-husband whose properties were searched in a similar manner as a means of coercing them into collaboration. Entering the property without the required court warrant, and overall acting like a mafia henchman who is above the law and employs intimidation tactics, the house was searched in a way unbecoming of even the most rogue of investigators. Who knows how many others have already been victims of Humphrey’s despicable and unprofessional behaviour.

Although outside of the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom and working in the private sector, the UK Minister of State for Crime and Policing Chris Philp as well as the Minister of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs James Cleverly should be extremely concerned. If former members of the police and armed forces are pimping out their services, which they acquired during their time in the police or military, as mercenaries for despotic governments, then there is a severe problem which needs to be taken care of.

Of course there are extremely important regulations in place regarding the export of both weapons, software and technology as well as military and police know how. These regulations are in place by the Export Control Joint Unit and the Department for International Trade in order to prevent exactly these kinds of situations, namely citizens with access to dual use goods or skills which could be leveraged to support autocratic regimes selling these on to the highest bidder without any regard for the impact on human rights. It is the responsibility of the UK Government to both oversee what citizens they trained are doing with their knowledge and even more so in this pertains to a commonwealth country.

It begins with house searches, profiteering and looting and ends with people like Kremlin puppet Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Wagner Group peddling mercenaries who murder women and children. Although Seychelles President Wavel Ramkalawan’s direct link to the Kremlin has already been established, some still had hope that at least ACCS investigators would act in a way that is befitting of their title. It’s time somebody in the newly formed UK government take a stand and speak out.

Economy Justice Politics

True Justice Demands Neutrality

Principled judges are extremely hard to come by these days. Although the expectation is that those who run the justice system, and are responsible for dealing out justice, will only be guided by the truth, that is unfortunately not always the case. One need not look any further than the ongoing miscarriage of justice in the Seychelles, where the country’s courts have been co-opted by the political ruling class and exploited for promoting political agendas.

Sometimes though, even in the most corrupt of justice systems, one can be positively surprised. In the case of Seychelles this was seen with former Chief Justice Mathilda Twomey, who decided to step down from her position in 2020 after only one five-year term. Although she committed to step down after one term before she took on the position, her passionate speech before departing office about judicial independence and the courage required to exercise true independence was an obvious reference to the reasons she didn’t feel she could continue serving in her position regardless. Discussing issues like lack of rule of law and the need to address “outdated, unreformed laws” were similarly instructive.

It would appear however that a similar situation is repeating itself today in the Seychelles justice system, with Attorney General Frank Ally, who has served in his position since 2017, deciding to step down recently. Although the reasoning being given is that this is due to an unfortunate illness being faced by his son who requires surgery, the question being asked by everyone is to what extent this is the actual reason he is stepping down. Of course family illness is a terrible thing and must be a priority. However how much did this actually play a role in encouraging the attorney general that he could no longer fulfil his position? Or perhaps was this a decision that was inspired by the way in which the justice system operates, and a decision that as a principal jurist, he no longer wants to be directly associated with a system so heavily influenced by an authoritarian government.

Interestingly, sources close to the matter have informed Seychelles Watch that it will be British barrister, Steven Powles KC, who will be assuming the position in the immediate term. Aside from the fact that it is an unprecedented choice to outsource one’s attorney general position to a foreigner from the private sector, the fact is that Powles has been prosecuting one of the most high-level cases the country has ever seen on behalf of the government. And while the position of attorney general also includes being responsible for overseeing cases being prosecuted on behalf of the government, additional responsibilities include representing the public’s interest and handling criminal appeals. How one might be able to, on the one hand, prosecute a high-level nationally covered case and on the other hand be entrusted with such serious oversight responsibilities, which are more likely than not to conflict with the case itself, remains unclear.

If one would like to understand why Powles, on a professional level, is unfits to fill the position, one need look no further then past defendants which he has represented. Although designated as an international criminal lawyer, his clients have been some of the worst criminals the international community has known. This has included Isak Musliu, accused of engaging in severe human rights abuses and tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes committed in Kosovo, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone accused of rape, sexual slavery as well as chopping villagers’ hands off, along with corrupt politicians the likes of which have included Italian playboy Silvio Berlusconi.

The reasons why such an individual is both not fit to serve as attorney general and is not impartial enough to do so are quite clear. The real question is why the government of President Wavel Ramkalawan does not see it the same way. Time will tell if the government will choose to reverse this quite absurd appointment, but for the time being it continues to be more and more apparent why principled jurists, such as Mathilda Twomey and Frank Ally, chose to put their involvement in the Seychellois justice system in their past.

Economy Indian Ocean Politics

There Is No Such Thing As “Legal Rights” In Today’s Seychelles

The right of a defendant to legal representation is one of the most basic aspects of international justice. No matter how horrific the crime, every person accused of committing a crime is entitled to having their case heard with the help of an attorney in a court of law. This seems to be true everywhere but in Seychelles, where the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACCS), under the leadership of May De Silva, has been denying the Valabhji couple, defendants in the case sinisterly named “Operation Black Iron” their right to legal representation.

Of course, the ACCS, and the foreign lawyers which they have employed throughout the course of the trial, such as barristers Michael Skelley & Ed Vickers of London’s Red Lion Chambers, are far too proficient in the technical aspects of the law to directly deny defendants legal representation. Especially in a trial that has been so heavily covered in the international press. Rather they have come up with an intelligent way of doing so while maintaining an airs of innocence.

What they have done is simply make it impossible for the defendants to afford to pay their lawyers. This is by tying up and obstructing access to funds and determining where the defendants might and might not be able to pay their representation from. As committed as they are to the case, lawyers cannot be expected to work for free and their time can be quite expensive especially when dealing with high level cases such as these. The ACCS know this and have been taking advantage of this fact, forcing defendants to let their international representation go and needing to rely, of late, on local lawyers only recently brought into the case.

Of course this is the perfect move for a government which would like to brand itself as a democracy. The government of Wavel Ramkalawan wants to be seen as a democratizing force for the greater good, despite the gross mismanagement of the economy, destruction of the welfare state, out of control costs, rampant government corruption and spiralling violent crime. And locking up political enemies as well as blocking their ability to defend themselves adequately in court does not sit well with the notion of democracy in any way, shape or form.

The ability to highlight this in the press is probably the last chance at impacting government decisions such as these and encouraging them to consider reversing course. That is of course until the government gets down to restricting press freedom as well. It is difficult to tell what direction political prosecution will next take in Wavel Ramkalawan’s Seychelles.

Justice Politics Transparency

Reflections on The President’s Most Recent Address to the Nation

President Ramkalawan’s recent address to the nation, delivered on October 20th, was one of his most daring. Facing one of the toughest years of his political career, with the country undergoing a cost-of-living crisis, increasing crime, and facing severe domestic criticism surrounding the country’s ongoing politically motivated trial, his speech was an obvious attempt at deflecting criticism.

His first all too obvious attempt at doing this was seen through his promise to raise salaries. Although marketed as an attempt to address his own government’s failures to combat spiralling prices, this strategic decision was obviously aimed at the addressing criticism surrounding severe instances of corruption discovered in his cabinet. Most recently this even included the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Ronny Govinden, who was accused of acquiring properties below market value and selling them at extreme profits.

Raising salaries in a country suffering from flawed economic policy as well as corruption is not an adequate solution. It is the direct equivalent of throwing a bone to the people while the President and his cronies enjoy steak. Thinking that people would not see through this very obvious attempt at silencing critics is both naive and insulting.

A similar attempt has been made throughout the course of the legal case over the allegedly missing USD 50 million. The trial has seen any and all attempts at silencing the defense, including going so far as violating their human rights and overriding their right to due process. The government, understanding that it is under the constant supervision of human rights organisations and even the European Union, which funds much of its efforts, has paid lip service to these issues in a similar way. One thing unsurprisingly not mentioned by Ramkalawan is that the current vice president Ahmed Afif has remained free despite being deeply implicated in the case, from back when he was working for the Ministry of Finance in 2002.

Lip service, however, is insufficient when it comes to upholding the integrity of the country’s legal system. Consistently reiterating ones commitment to rule of law does not make a country a democracy, just like raising salaries nationally not take a country out of economic crisis. All that actually matters are results, and the outcome of concrete government actions to date do not make anyone optimistic.

Economy Justice Politics

Ramkalawan’s Government Steps on CJ’s Toes, Defies Court Order

Recent developments in the prosecution trial against Mukesh and Laura Valabhji have quite a few people concerned. It appears that the government is, yet again, working to cover up its own illegal activities. The case of the 50 million never ceases to surprise, and has included, so far, allegations of government corruption, human rights violations and absolutely no respect for the rule of law.

Most recently, the Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronny Govinden ordered that a visit to the Valabhji’s property be allowed. It is indeed not standard procedure to prevent access to a defendant’s property, no matter how high level the trial in question is. It appears that despite the court order given by the Chief Justice, the government thought it appropriate to intervene and to deny access to the property.

Why this happened is not entirely clear. Of course the government has not rejected the request outright. They are too cunning for that. Instead, it has delayed the visit under the pretext that the government cannot provide adequate security arrangements for the couple to visit the premises. What security arrangements exactly may be necessary remain unclear. Neither defendant is a flight risk and both have been extremely cooperative in this political show trial. A simple police escort to facilitate the visit would be sufficient according to all professional estimations.

More likely than not the government is looking to cover up something far more concerning, namely, that they have not managed to successfully protect the property of the defendants. The expectation is that the house has been ransacked by either the police or the government, with everything valuable probably stolen. It is also possible that the house currently has squatters or is in such a state of disrepair that anybody who sees it would be shocked. It is in cases like this where the government decides to intervene, defying a court order and delaying the visit in question indefinitely.

Although President Ramkalawan and Chief Justice Govinden have been reported to be cooperating on the case, briefing each other throughout the course of the trial and making use of each other’s respective powers to continue the witch hunt, in this case, the government has gone too far even for the court’s taste. How the court will respond remains unclear but what is certain is that in any law abiding democracy the government must respect rulings by the justice system. Perhaps enough pressure will encourage journalists to look into the state of the house and see what exactly it is the government is trying to cover up.

Indian Ocean Politics Transparency

Wavel Ramkalawan Staffs His Military With Loyalists

There are some things that no longer come as a surprise to anyone. One of those is the ability of those in power to do everything and anything possible to cling to power. Such was the case with the recent appointment of the former Commander of the Seychelles Coast Guard, Colonel Jean Attala, as the new Chief of Staff of the Seychelles People’s Defence Force (SPDF).

Despite the fact that its name suggests that its purpose is to protect the interests of the people, President Wavel Ramkalawan has once again proven that the sole purpose of the military is to uphold his own personal interests. The long history of the Seychelles with political instability, means that the most important component of staying in power is ensuring a loyal military. And that is exactly what the President has done, filling the most senior ranks of the armed forces with loyalists.

This appointment follows a recent constitutional amendment according to which the government extended the powers of the military to domestic operations in times of peace. This constitutional amendment was decried by human rights organizations the world over, as well as by the country’s own Ombudsman, Bar Association and by the Seychelles Human Rights Commission who went so far as to take the issue to court in September, challenging the constitutionality of the proposed change. In this regard, they said in a joint press communiqué that the organisations assert their shared concerns that the change, known as the Tenth Amendment ,“undermines the democratic protections afforded by the Constitution, in particular due process, the rule of law and human rights”.

The direction which the country is going in is most concerning. Struggling for democracy after overcoming the rule of longtime strong man France-Albert René who ruled from 1977 till 2004, the gradual but certain process of democratic backsliding appears to only be worsening. The ongoing heavily covered trial surrounding 50 million dollars, and reported extensive human rights violations taking place against defendants, is a clear indication of the way in which business is conducted by the government. These individual actions, coupled with insidious Russian influence that appears to be continuously increasing, should only make us more concerned, particularly in light of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Do not be fooled. This is not a case of the boy crying wolf. The chance for Seychelles to degenerate into an autocratic government stuck in the stranglehold of Wavel Ramkalawan is very real. Without real change that is encouraged by international pressure, it is unreasonable to assume that things will get anything but worse.

Economy Politics Uncategorized

Development Challenges on the Horizon for the New UK Prime Minister

Building and maintaining global relationships, especially for the purposes of international development, is something the United Kingdom prides itself on. The UK has a history of providing aid to countries around the world, but also in facilitating capacity building and providing support for governments that lack the resources to develop themselves. The UK’s new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, will have to ensure that their foreign policy agenda is selective when it comes to developing relationships.

The balance of global regimes is shifting towards autocracy. The last year marked the lowest levels of international democracy seen in thirty years, and it seems unlikely to be an outlier. With this trend, an increasing number of countries in the developing world are heading in the direction of autocratic governance that veer away from democratic ideals. The risks of establishing and strengthening relationships with these countries, however, are high. Not only does it strengthen the regime’s hold on their countries to gain official support and recognition, but being associated with countries that are undemocratic also damages the UK’s reputation. In the interest of facilitating the spread of democracy as well as reputational self-interest, the UK’s new Prime Minister must ensure that the relationships they choose to develop cannot be exploited or manipulated into a political risk.

Former Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, Liz Truss’s appointment at the start of the month to the highest office in the UK and her experience with foreign affairs only underscores this international development angle. Her stance so far on the United Kingdom’s foreign policy has been to build a “network of liberty” with allies around the world who will work together to fight for and support democracy. Her aggressive stance on foreign policy and her desire for a “perpetual Brexit” are cornerstones to her international agenda, and with the power of the Prime Minster’s office, she is likely to turn her focus to developing and fortifying this network.

Her international development agenda also leaves a lot to be desired, with many charities criticising it as a missed opportunity and as a “neo-colonial approach to aid spending”. International aid distribution is already an important issue, with countries like the Seychelles and Rwanda providing case studies of the possible shortfalls of this type of relationship-building. The government of the Seychelles is undergoing a negative transformation with the leadership of President Wavel Ramkalawan. Elected in 2020 on a platform of cleaning up corruption and drugs, Ramkalawan had been heralded as a wave of change for the small island nation. The President’s landmark action so far has been a national corruption trial to persecute those responsible for the alleged embezzling of part of $50 million worth of aid money. The instigation of this trial set new expectations with the international community that under this government, Seychelles will move towards greater economic strength and become a safe and secure destination for aid and foreign direct investments.

As this trial progresses, however, aspects of it from prisoner treatment to the credibility of evidence are showing a different side to Ramkalawan’s government. Complaints about prisoner treatment from those detained by the government revealed that their detention facilities did not meet human rights standards, and only after the Seychelles Human Rights Commission investigated did the government promise to make changes. The Seychelles constitution was amended after the corruption trial began, in order to expand the government’s power to conduct the trial in the style they wanted. The anti-corruption body in the Seychelles has been accused of intimidation by the defence lawyers, and the detainees were placed on no-fly lists despite posing minimal security risks. Several detainees have also consistently been denied bail, despite the government admitting that concrete evidence in their cases is lacking. While all of this continues to take place, the European Union is providing €300,000 for an anti-corruption project in Seychelles, intended to build capacity with technical aid and national awareness.

The other case is Rwanda, the poster child for international development projects. It is a clean, organised and efficient state, transformed from a country disfigured by genocide to one of the most orderly in Africa, all under the helm of President Paul Kagame, who receives endless praise from Western leaders for his incredible successes. Economically, the country is strong, and international aid is well invested with a visible impact. His regime and governance style, however, are clearly autocratic. He shuffles his security team constantly so as not to allow a military coup; he has advisors beaten over disagreements; his current term lasts until 2034, and he may change the constitution again to further extend it. With so much evidence of the improvements he has made, however, President Kagame remains a respected and well-liked leader in the international community.

It is clear to see that the firm governance of leaders like Ramkalawan and Kagame, coupled with aid funding, has allowed these countries to transform. This governance, however, comes at a cost and national leaders cannot continue to ignore that. The risk of developing relationships with autocratic countries is that as the economy improves, the leader’s credibility amongst his people increases and his international legitimacy grows. This reinforces his belief in his actions and expands his ability to act as he sees fit without repercussions.

The new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom plays a crucial role not only in the future of the UK, but also in the future development of the global south. Developing and establishing international relationships is a difficult and intricate task, and must be done with the utmost care. Economic development is not the only hallmark of growth and prosperity for a country – social issues, equality and human rights are all equally important. The pursuit of economic growth and democracy cannot come at the expense of human rights, and the UK has a duty as an international leader to ensure it plays no part in encouraging or supporting leaders that do not share these values.